Fly to Sofia airport (Terminal 2), where we will be met by the leader and transferred to the remote village of Yagodina, our base for the next 6 nights.
Setting off on foot from the hotel, we walk out of the village and pick up a spectacular trail that runs high along the flank of the Buinovo Gorge beneath the rugged rock outcrops of Mt. Sveti Iliya. Meeting our bus, we then have a short drive downstream, before commencing the second part of our walk, a hike through the heart of the Kastrakli Nature Reserve. The reserve has a rich flora and fauna, and is world renowned for the large variety of butterflies and moths that can be found in the region. Finally on emerging at the village of Borino, we are picked up by our bus and driven back to Yagodina.
Walking Time: 4 hours; Total Ascent: +450m; Total Descent: -300m
Setting off on foot from the village of Zmeitsa, we follow the line of an ancient Roman road through meadows, forests and fields where there are opportunities to observe the local people engaged in their traditional agricultural lifestyle. Finally, having descended a broad grassy ridge spur, that offers stunning views towards the village of Yagodina, we drop steeply into the Buinovo Gorge where our minibus will be waiting.
Walking Time: 4 hours; Total Ascent: +300m; Total Descent: -600m.
We start today's extremely varied walk by first hiking down the gorge of the Chairska River, and then climbing through ancient forests to emerge at an extensive area of glorious flower-filled meadows. Having crossed these, and then an interesting section of karst plateau, we eventually drop down into the Trigrad Gorge to visit the 'Devil's Throat' cave, an enormous chasm with a thundering waterfall. According to legend, this was the cave by which Orpheus emerged from the Underworld after his tragically failed attempt to reclaim his wife Eurydice. The crags around the cave entrance are also very interesting for naturalists, being home to several local endemic plants as well as the Wallcreeper, a rare and elusive bird that flutters around the rocks like a butterfly on strikingly crimson wings. Walking Time: 4 hours; Total Ascent: +500m; Total Descent: -300m.
A full day's circular walk starting and finishing in Yagodina. Our route makes a tour of Mt. Durdaga, a high wooded peak that rises directly above the village. During the course of our walk, we pass through a large variety of habitats with an extremely rich flora and fauna. During the first half of the day, as well as wandering through ancient forests that are home to bear, boar and deer, we will also cross several flower covered pastures that are normally enlivened by a spectacular assortment of butterflies. Later in the afternoon, we return to Yagodina along the line of a former Roman road that runs high above the Trigrad Gorge, and which not only offers outstanding views, but which is also one of the most renowned botanic trails in the country.
Walking Time: 5 hours; Total Ascent: +500m; Total Descent: -500m.
The focus of today's walk is the imposing Sveti Iliya (Saint Elijah) ridge that rises up directly north of Yagodina. Our route starts by climbing steadily upwards through lush flower-filled meadows, until we reach the broad open ridgeback. Although rough and stony, the ridge boasts its own unique flora and fauna, as well the opportunity to observe a range of interesting raptors, with Golden, Booted and Short-toed Eagles all having been recorded on previous departures, as well as Common, Long-legged and Honey Buzzard, and an assortment of falcons such as Peregrine, Hobby and Kestrel. However, the panoramic views would in themselves be reward enough for climbing the ridge, for they not only stretch out over the village of Yagodina itself, but indeed much of the Western Rodopi, offering an ideal chance to point out and identify the places one has walked during previous days of this holiday.
Walking Time: 4½ hours; Total Ascent: +650m; Total Descent: -550m.
Setting off on foot from the hotel, we pick up yet another section of former Roman road, now a beautiful forest trail that is famed for the great variety of orchids that can be found growing alongside it. Suddenly the path emerges at a shelter, perched high on a rocky viewpoint from which one can gaze down into the Buinovo Gorge below. From here, the trail steadily descends to meet the river and road beside a wonderfully preserved Roman bridge, and just a short distance from the Yagodina Cave. We will spend about an hour inside the cave, one of the most beautiful in the country, and world renowned for its variety of cave formations including stalagmites, stalactites, draperies, flowstones, dendrites and cave pearls. The cave system also harbours a unique prehistoric dwelling and we will have the chance to see this and learn more about the surprisingly sophisticated way-of-life of the people who inhabited it more than 6000 years ago. Finally, after lunch, we set off on the long but highly picturesque transfer to the Bulgarian capital Sofia, where we will spend our final night.
Walking Time: 1 hour; Total Ascent: +100m; Total Descent: -300m.
Fly to London.